Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Risk that Transformed my Life

I had no right to be unhappy.

I had been lucky enough to be selected by the top Software company in India to work for them as an engineer, in spite of the fact that I wasn't qualified to be an engineer. After working for Adobe Systems for 7 years, my career graph looked rather good. Not only had I grown at a steady pace and was leading some exciting projects, I had also received two awards and had filed for a patent. My manager was one of the best managers in the company and my team was very supportive. But I still wasn't "happy".

A dear friend had once suggested that I should go away to a far-off place for some time, to take a break. And the thought lingered in my mind.

With Adobe Friends at Sariska


I wanted to write, and given a choice, would support myself with my writing. So I started looking for things I could do to make that possible and came across several post-graduate courses in Creative Writing in the UK and the US. Without giving it much thought, I started applying for them, and soon started receiving acceptance letters from some very good universities.

So far, it had been an easy run. But now came the difficult part. I had to choose between my comfortable job and going back to college. This also meant that I would be choosing between being with family and being really far away from them. I also had to choose between being amongst friends and being amongst strangers. I had to choose between safety and risk.

I chose risk.

I resigned from my job, withdrew my PF, and spent all my money on my college fee, keeping some aside for my initial days in the UK as a student. The risk didn't end there. University accommodation was expensive so I would need to search for a place to live after reaching the UK. I was off to a strange land, away from my family and friends, and with no place to live when I got there. On the top of that, I had limited money. I booked a cheap hotel for 5 days so that I would have a place to keep my luggage while I searched for a house.

Luckily, almost as soon as I reached the UK I ran into a group of Indian students who were searching for a house too. And in a few days I found myself living on the top floor of a three-story Victorian house, with a group of strangers who would become some of my best friends. And it was the best room ever! It was small and cozy and it had a skylight that looked up at...well...the sky. As it got cold it was through this skylight that I saw the very first snowfall of my life.

My first snowfall and snow-fight with my flatmate at Newcastle, UK


A couple of days later, classes started. I was the only Indian in my class, but I soon made some lovely friends. We would hang out after college and even on the weekends. Go out for pizza and pretzels, and shop together. Throughout the year, we went for countless night-outs and several trips all across the UK.

The Four Musketeers - Hannah, Vibha, Kelsey, and Helen


I also found a part-time job and started earning decent money to be able to afford my rent and my travels. It was a fairly busy life, but one that I enjoyed thoroughly.

By the end of the year, I had experienced several firsts. This was my first time staying away from my family, first time studying abroad, first part-time job, first night-out, first solo travel (to Scotland, and also to Bath and Oxford), first stay in a dormitory, first proposal from a Nigerian, first poetry performance in a literary festival, first author-signed copy of a book, first thanksgiving, first snowman, first snow-fight, first body piercing as a challenge, and so on.

By the time I was done with my MA, I had learned much more than Creative Writing. I had learned to be on my own, and also to be more open-minded about unknown places and people. I had taken a risk and had not only survived it, but had also come out of it as a much more evolved person.

Upon reaching India, I didn't go back to my IT job. I joined Dorling Kindersley, an international publishing house (a part of Penguin Random House), at about 1/3 the salary I was getting when I was a software engineer. I gathered experience of the industry and am now running Literature Studio.

Addressing Students at IIT Delhi's Literati Festival
Life as an entrepreneur is all about taking risks and had I not taken that first risk of quitting my job and following my heart, I would never have been able to reach where I am today.

Now when I think about it, what I did was almost as risky as the stunt in this video by Mountain Dew:

   
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